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Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, flanked by UCF President John Hitt (left) and Dr. Phillips Charities President Kenneth Robinson, announces a $3 million gift for UCF's proposed downtown campus.


UCF gets another $3 million for downtown campus, heads to Board of Governors

The University of Central Florida has secured another $3 million in private donations – this time from Orlando-based Dr. Phillips Charities – and takes its bid for a downtown campus to the Board of Governors Wednesday still short but full of confidence.

UCF President John Hitt and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer joined Dr. Phillips Charities President Kenneth Robinson on Tuesday to announce the latest gift, and the largest single gift from the private sector, toward UCF’s goal of raising $20 million for the campus.

Now UCF will take its progress, $16 million in private money so far, to a make-or-break meeting with the Florida University System Board of Governors on Wednesday, with the hope of convincing the board that 80 percent of the goal is a good-faith start.

UCF wants to build a downtown campus as part of the Creative Village development in Orlando. The deal it offered state officials was that the university would contribute a third of the money needed for the first phase and another third would be raised through donations, while Florida would provide the remaining $20 million.

The Dr. Phillips Charities gift pledge comes a day after UCF announced $2.5 million in a collection of smaller pledges Monday, as university officials rush to get their commitment in order.

Hitt and Dyer expressed confidence that they will be able to persuade the board to sign off Wednesday. It would be their final chance this year, since a Board of Governors approval is needed before the Florida Legislature could put the money in the state’s 2016-’17 budget, and that budget deal-making is going on right now.

The board is meeting on the UCF campus.

“We’ve got other irons in the fire. We’ve got proposals out, being considered right now that would move us closer to that $20 million. I’m not at all concerned about our ability to meet the goal,” Hitt said. “My sense is there is an opportunity for funds we’re seeking from the state to be appropriated with the understanding that we cannot touch the funds until we raise the full $20 million. That would be a very good resolution.”

Dyer also said he spoke with lawmakers as recently as Friday and is confident the House-Senate budget conference committee will write the $20 million into the budget.

They told him, Dyer said, “We should feel very good about that. Barring a total meltdown, if the Board of Governors gives approval of the project, the $20 million should be in the budget.”

That would leave one more step: the blessing of Gov. Rick Scott. Last year Scott vetoed $15 million for the UCF downtown Orlando campus proposal. That led UCF to rework its deal for a three-way split, and frequent conversations among his staff and university and Orlando officials.

Dyer said he thinks Scott is “knowledgeable and supportive of the project; last year’s veto was not reflective of the merits of the project. I think most of the feedback we have gotten has been positive.”

Dr. Phillips Charities is a major philanthropic organization in Orlando and no stranger to supporting UCF. It also has donated to the UCF College of Medicine, College of Business Administration and Dr. P. Phillips School of Real Estate.

“When our board first heard about UCF downtown and the compelling vision of President Hitt and his team, we knew we wanted to help make this campus a reality,” Robinson said.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at

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